The ball cannot be played into the circle until it has travelled at least five metres or been touched by a defending player.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) confirmed on Tuesday an amendment to the 'Rules of Hockey' to clarify rule 13.2 in relation to free-hits within five metres of the circle.
Following the amendment, the rule now states that at an attacking free-hit within five metres of the circle, the ball cannot be played into the circle until it has travelled at least five metres or been touched by a defending player.
This amendment, to be introduced with immediate effect, removes the possibility for the attacker to touch the free hit for a teammate to run on to and play the ball into the circle.
One additional piece of guidance has also been added in relation to the amendment. Following a time stoppage after the award of an attacking free hit inside the 23 metres area, upon the re-start, all players other than the player taking the free hit must be at least five metres from the ball.
This amendment follows feedback to the FIH Rules Committee from technical delegates, coaches and athletes.
Other than the above, the rule and its interpretation remains exactly the same as before. The proposed adjustment is not seen as a major variance to the rule, but a sensible clarification to avoid unfair and potentially dangerous play.
The adjustment to rule 13.2 and its guidance applies with immediate effect to international hockey in order to give teams who are preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro maximum time to adjust to the change.
As is normal, National Associations are able to decide upon the date for the adoption of this rule adjustment, according to the dates of their outdoor seasons.
Image: India's drag-flicker V R Raghunath